Most people will agree that no single person has had more impact on history than Jesus of Nazareth. What few of those people will agree on is who Jesus actually was. The Gospels present a very distinct perspective that takes the question of Jesus’ identity out of the theoretical realm and makes it intensely personal. Whatever one may think of Jesus, He cannot be ignored.
From the very beginning of the New Testament, the Bible makes it clear that Jesus is no ordinary human being. In Matthew 1, the angel Gabriel outlines Jesus’ unique mission:
21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
How stunned Joseph must have been to hear these words from the angel! To know that the baby in Mary’s womb was destined for such greatness must have filled him with awe. As we see the Gospels unfold, we find how extraordinary Jesus really is and discover that He truly is no ordinary man.
One of the first things I notice as I read through the Gospels is that Jesus is actually worshipped – and that He lets Himself be worshipped. Fast forward to Matthew 14 and we find Jesus and His disciples caught in a fierce storm. After Jesus calms the storm, the disciples are astonished:
33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Reading this passage raises some serious questions. Any serious student of the Bible must ask himself who Jesus is that He would let others worship Him. After all, the Law of Moses is fairly clear on the issue. Look at Exodus 34:
14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God)
Since the Law indicates that God alone should be worshiped, what do we do with all those times in the New Testament that others worship Him? The wise men in Matthew 2, the leper in Matthew 8, Jairus in Matthew 9, the blind man in John 9, and His disciples in Luke 24 – they all worshipped Jesus and Jesus did not stop them from doing so. The significance of this must not be underestimated; C.S. Lewis expressed his thoughts on this much better than I ever could:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” -Mere Christianity-
I marvel when I think about the historical context of what is happening here. For centuries, the people of Israel have waited and longer for their Messiah. Throughout the Old Testament, we see the signs that point us forward to Jesus. And then, after a deafening prophetic silence of hundreds of years, a baby is born in Bethlehem whom Gabriel describes as the one who will save His people from their sins. Who is this baby for whom angels appear to shepherd, for whom a star appears in the sky? Who is this man that compels men and women to fall down before him and worship him? We must come to terms with the fact that Jesus is more than miracle worker or a great teacher. His very identity compels us join the wise men, the leper, the disciples, and Jairus, and fall down and worship Him as Lord and God. What will you do with that call – will you worship Him or call Him a lunatic?